Pasta on a red plate and red table linen.

 Pasta – pronto!

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, consumers' changing needs represent a challenge for the food retail sector and, by extension, for logistics companies. Until now, empty supermarket shelves had been an extremely rare sight in Germany. DB Cargo and DB Schenker are now transporting extra pasta from Italy by rail.

Italian pasta is a popular staple even in normal times, but its long shelf life means that demand is now higher than ever. Some of us may think that stockpiling is irrational, and while the sight of empty supermarket shelves may be sad, it also sends the wrong message. That's because pasta isn't actually in short supply.

The "Pasta Express" is ample proof of this. A total of 300 pallets recently arrived in Nuremberg from the Naples region, and they carried some 400,000 packets of spaghetti, penne and fusilli for ALDI's Cucina range of pasta, one of its own brands. DB Schenker is transporting the pallets from Nuremberg to ten of ALDI's regional subsidiaries, which in turn supply over 650 of the discount supermarket's branches. After it arrives at the individual stores, the pasta is available for shoppers to purchase the very next day. "There was no need for panic-buying before, and there is no need now either", says Andreas Kremer, director of supply chain management at ALDI SÜD.

Loaded with another 200 pallets, no fewer than ten DB Cargo freight wagons of pasta are on their way to Germany via the fastest route from southern Italy, and they will arrive soon since border-crossings are not presenting any problems. The train's load is expected to keep stocks replenished for four weeks. On its southbound return journey, the train transports packaging produced in Scandinavia.

This undertaking clearly demonstrates one of the rail system's greatest strengths: it can move large quantities of freight with relatively few people involved. The current crisis also shows that supply chains can cope with pressures that exceed even the demand seen around Christmas-time. Italy's pasta manufacturers are currently working flat out, which is a boost for the country's southern regions. Their economies are traditionally less robust than regions in northern Italy, which have been hit hard by the pandemic. By contrast, infection rates in the region of Campania, whose capital is Naples, are currently lower than those in the German state of Hesse, which has a comparable population.

The rail sector is benefitting in the short term from the COVID crisis, but the pandemic's impact may be long-lasting. "When confronted with such a situation, our customers naturally start thinking about their existing supply chains and how they can make them more secure in the future. Rail operators play an increasingly significant role here. By demonstrating how efficient and how reliable our services are during this crisis, we will win over other companies, thereby bolstering the long-term shift from road to rail transport that we want to achieve", says Stephan Sulser, Vice President of Sales for Consumer Goods, Pulp & Paper at DB Cargo.


Stephan Sulser
Vice President of Sales for Consumer Goods, Pulp & Paper
Logistics Sales Division